October 31, 2008

Good candy, bad candy

Posted: 12:48 PM ET

It's Halloween and we all know what that means–your kids will have a stockpile of chocolate and sugary treats. But just how bad is all that candy for your kid's teeth? And do you really know how many extra calories are kids adding to their diet from a 'handful' of goodies each day? As parents, we need to make healthy decisions for our children. The key is moderation.


Here are some tips for a healthy Halloween:

HARD/CHEWY CANDY vs CHOCOLATE TREATS: Dentists agree that hard candy such as suckers, Jolly Ranchers are chewy candies such as taffy are the most damaging to your child’s teeth. Typically, these treats take a long time to eat, which allows sugar to coat your teeth and lodge in the grooves. The result: cavities! A limited amount of chocolate is a better option for your teeth. Chocolate dissolves in your mouth instead of getting "stuck" in between your teeth as a caramel candy would. Chocolate also contains tannins, which aid in killing bacteria in the mouth.

CALORIES ADD UP QUICKLY: Some parents may automatically assume chocolate has more calories than hard or chewy candy but you may be surprised to know the calorie content is pretty comparable. A typical small taffy has about 40 calories, a box of Nerds has 60. Compare that with a 3 Musketeer, which has 63 calories. A snack-size Snickers has 80. As you can imagine, these treats add up quickly! You or your teenage could add a 1,000 extra calories to your daily diet by just eating a few handfuls a day. Keep in mind the American Dietetic Assoc. recommends the average teenage girl consume about 1,400 calories a day, 2,000 for the average teenage boy.

FOOD ALLERGY CONCERNS: If your child has food allergies you have to be careful because individually wrapped candy does not list ingredients on the wrapper. You may think a candy is safe, but it could have been made on the same equipment used to make cadies containing peanuts or milk. Allergy experts say if a product does not have a label, just avoid altogether. One tips for parents is to stock up on your child’s favorite allergy-free candies and swap out at home.

Have a safe, and healthy Halloween!

Be sure to tune in to Dr. Sanjay Gupta every weekend on HOUSE CALL. You'll find the answers to your medical questions Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET on CNN.

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Filed under: Gupta • Health

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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!